Okay, Listen Here

Okay, Listen Here

Friday, December 31, 2010


Kathy is reading Regency Christmas Proposals by Gayle Wilson, Amanda McCabe and Carole Mortimer.

Cheryl is reading Night Falls Darkly by Kim Lenox.

Jean is reading Game by Phil Truman.

What are you reading?

Thursday, December 30, 2010

Here Comes the New Year

The new year is here whether you are ready or not.

As you read this it is New Year's Eve Eve. Tomorrow is a new day. The next day is a new year.

I have spent the last few days cleaning out drawers, cabinets and closets in my house. It is a really great feeling to be going into the new year with new clean space in my house!

Yesterday Kathy's blog made us think about what we hope to accomplish in the new yea--new goals or goals that we have recommitted to. For me, getting the mundane parts of my life tidied up are an important part of getting a fresh start on the new year. Mentally it helps me to feel as if most of the other parts in my life are under control before I set off in a new direction.For me, cleaning our drawers and closets is always a part of that.

What do you do to prepare for the new year?

Winner Announcement: The winner of last Thursday's contest is Marilyn!

Thanks to everyone for your comments about the perks of a December birthday!

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Voice is Like a Snowflake

Pictures provided by: SnowCrystals.com

We've talked about how much snow and cold weather has affected our lives this week. Cheryl gave a comical view of her adventures. Jean tasked us to answer questions about our Christmas experience. Many of you chimed in. After gift-giving and partying with family, apparently snow, however pretty it makes the landscape, doesn't appeal to all. This is what makes my sojourn under the Tulip Tree so appealing, friends! I enjoy the many different ways the four of us look at life. No way is right or wrong. We value each other's strengths and weaknesses as well as the things that individualize us. That's the southern way. That’s the way things are at Okay, Listen Here, and I’m so thankful for it.

Though not quite as humorous as Cheryl’s trials, here’s my take on our snowy adventures of late (which have not seen our area since 1966). I’m drawn to the mystical matter that is snow. Like human fingerprints, no two crystals are alike. Snow starts in liquid form, whereas the human body is 90% water. Snow is dependent upon freezing temperatures. The human body must have a temperature of 98.6 degrees in order to function properly. Individual, yet similar. Complicated and unexplainable, writers (people), and snow, have much in common, deserving healthy respect.

As I gazed upon the glistening white surface around me on my way to work today, I thought about the many trillions of snow crystals covering the landscape. No two are alike. But many are needed in order to create the effect. Can the same be said for writers? For books?

You see, though it is said there aren’t any new stories out there, the way a story is told through an individual writer’s skill can spark a consciousness untapped. Look at the way J.K. Rowling galvanized readers, most notably this younger generation. Examine the process Stephanie Meyer used to generate buzz for her vampire saga. These authors rejuvenated an old theme, making it palatable for modern readers. Their vision was the same as any other writer: to be published, to tell stories and bring delight to readers everywhere. How did they do it? What jumped out from the page like a single snowflake, genuine, solitarily beautiful when all other snowflakes were just as sparkly? To find the answer, one must simply look at the writer’s voice.

Snow can mean many things to different people. It can enhance play, distract the workaholic, bring solitude or concern to travelers, shut in secluded homes, delay airplanes, close down freeways, disrupt entire cities, and force a slower pace. Snow can be cataclysmically life altering. It can destroy. If not controlled, fresh snow can increase the likelihood of avalanches. But in its beauty, it brings peace, solace, quiet interludes, and renewal. For the wash of moisture left behind when all the snow has melted nurtures the earth, readying it for spring.

Amazing isn’t it how a single ice crystal can herald such power en masse? So too can a writer’s voice impact a reader’s life. One word can change everything. String a few words together and you have the power to destroy or uplift, gather or dispatch, give life or kill. Whatever genre a writer chooses, a writer’s voice has power, and how a writer chooses to string his/her words together creates voice. Whether via horror, mystery, romance, suspense, young adult, inspirational, or mainstream, stories are the vessel for a writer’s voice. Voice makes the same Beauty and the Beast story exciting or disconcerting. Voice, can be frigid like snow or on fire like the thrumming pulse in a lover’s touch.

Each of us has a voice, whether we’re writers or not. How we choose to wield our powerful sword, “the word,” makes all the difference to the world, “agents/editors/readers,” a writer impacts. They are the ones who will be listening to us in rapt interest or buying our books. They are the landscape glistening with the words from our heart, which have been gleaned by “voice” and given access to an individual fingerprint called “style”.

It is through this process, fine-tuning voice, that our stories will be heard. Look at the world around you. Find in it a small token to cherish. If you have a dream, find a way to help it thrive. There is peace and joy to be found anywhere you look. And perhaps, like me, you will see in one snowflake the potential for success.

As we prepare for a New Year, what is the one thing you want to strive for in 2011 and what are you willing to do so your voice can be heard?

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Snow Is NOT For The Faint 0f Heart

This last weekend’s snow for Christmas was a wished-for event. I love snow: the way every thing is coated with beautiful white crystals; the way sound is dampened and every thing is quiet; and the snug feeling of looking out the window at the cold but beautiful white blanket. I thought that nothing could be more magical than a White Christmas.

My mistake. The first inkling that it wasn’t good was a phone call from my parents that they weren’t coming. They live about a hundred fifty miles away and they didn’t want to take a risk driving and getting stuck out somewhere. Great, I had baked a twenty-one pound turkey for five people (to include left-overs for supper and the next couple of days). Now I was stuck with more turkey than I wanted. I had also doubled all my casseroles. Again, stuck with more food than I wanted. Okay, not a problem – I could freeze the extras for later. I would miss seeing my parents but it would be best if they not take any risks getting here. Still, I wished I hadn’t made so much food.

The next thing I had forgotten was that my boys were not going to feed the horses in the morning because it was Christmas. Unless you’re ten years old, being out in the wet stuff is not fun. I trudged out in the swirling snow and immediately fell, landing on my posterior. I scrambled to my feet, looked around to see if any one had witnessed my graceful fall. Daisey, the mule, had because she wore a smile on her face. I swear it was a smile because her teeth were showing. I shrugged it off and proceeded to feed all the animals, checking water and making sure they had plenty of hay. I did all of this in wet blue jeans. The snow that clung to my clothes had melted and I was walking around in soggy pants. Great. Such fun in the snow!

Back inside, I was met at the door by a dancing Doberman. My routine, after feeding the horses, is always to walk the dogs. They expect and demand it rigorously. Okay, I would take them out but I promised them that they wouldn’t like it. I usually take them through the garage which has a dog door in the middle entrance which Mason leaps through with joyous abandon. As I was pulling my boots back on I heard a large crash and then something akin to the cry of the Hound of the Baskervilles. My first thought was the mountain lion was back and, in the cold and snow, had decided Doberman was on the menu. I grabbed a hoe and went out the door, ready to defend my ninety-five pound wuss. Opening the door, the “wuss” was lying sprawled (like Bambi on the ice) with all four legs splayed in different directions. I must say I have never seen a more pitiful looking dog – his brown eyes pleading for help. I proceeded to try…we both ended up falling, again. I finally pushed him and me off the patch of ice and he scrambled up, leaving me to my own devices. Such loyalty! The walk didn’t last that long – everyone wanted back inside.

The cats, not used to being cooped up in the house were howling and demanding to be let out. I also warned them but they wouldn’t listen. Out the back door they went, across the back porch, an abrupt turn and everyone was demanding to be let back inside. One cat, my Pris, was doing this running-clawing thing on the glass as if she could dig her way back inside. So much for the howling – everyone settled down for their long winter’s nap. I never heard another thing from any of them.

The rest of the day was pretty much uneventful until I had to do the same routine again. Out in the snow, getting wet, getting cold and not enjoying it for one blasted minute. I came to a conclusion: Snow is best viewed from behind a window, holding a hot cup of cocoa.

How was your White Christmas? Did you go outside and enjoy the winter sports? Make a snowman? A snow angel? Brrrr.

Monday, December 27, 2010

Undeck The Hall and Throw the Cookies Out

Christmas has kicked my fanny—like it always does. I know. I let it. And I am not alone, I'm sure. I don't seem to have any wit and I never have any wisdom so this is going to be an interactive blog. Answer these questions, (or even just one). Someone will win a prize.

At the end of the day, I'll give you my answers.

1. Are you sad and let down that it's over or are you eager to get back to normal?

2. How much longer will your decorations stay up?

3. Which of your gifts was the biggest surprise?

4. What was the best thing you ate?

5. Was there a gift that you expected to get that didn't materialize?

6. Do you regret anything?

7. Did you forget anything?

8. Was there something you meant to do but just could not get around to?

9. What was your family squabble about? There had to be one.

Friday, December 24, 2010

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Christmas Birthday

You might think when you read the title of this blog that it is going to be about the little baby Jesus and his upcoming birthday, but you would be wrong. This blog is about having to share your birthday week with Christmas.

Let me first say that I love Jesus as much as most and plenty more than some. I also really love Christmas. I love the decorating, the cooking, the shopping, the gift giving and the gathering together with friends and family. What I don't love is that Christmas and my birthday are in the same week! I really wish Christmas could come at some other time, I mean, don't historians think that Christ was really born during the summer? I say let's move Christmas to June.

My birthday was yesterday and Cheryl's is today. We both agree that it stinks to have a Christmas birthday but having a Christmas birthday does have a few perks:

1. Almost everyone is ready to party with you since it is a festive time of year.

2. You quickly can tell who is REALLY your friend because they never give you a birthday gift wrapped in Christmas paper. It may be news print or paper sack but it is NOT Christmas wrapping.

3. You can tell if your family thinks you are special because they have you a party that doesn't have any Christmas things like plates or decorations.

4. You often have extra time off from work to celebrate because it is so close to the actual holiday.

5. I am sure there is a fifth perk but I couldn't think of what it might be. I will give a prize to the person who comments today with the best perk.

These may not seem like much but as a Christmas baby you quickly learn to take the good where you find it in December.

Can you think of any perks to having a
birthday so close to Christmas?

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Light of the Ages, Light of Hearts

I’ve blogged about timing. Timing is everything, and everything about timing affects our lives. Yesterday, Cheryl blogged about the history of Christmas lights, and as I thought about my blog topic for today, my thoughts were taken back again and again to lighting.

Christmas lights weren’t prevalent until the late 1800s— thanks to Edward Johnson (see Cheryl’s Tuesday blog post, Thank You Mr. Johnson). Celebrating Christmas and decorating Christmas trees was relegated to candlelight, which cost many their homes. Though most of us agree candlelight creates a warm, inviting atmosphere and certainly tones down the amount of dust gathering on the mantle, can you imagine trying to read after dark? What about the cost of candles? Many people had to ration candles and use them sparingly.

The absence of light means no reading. Though many women could not read, and were kept uneducated on purpose, looking back through 21st Century eyes, can you imagine a world without books? My bookcase would breathe a sigh of relief, but mercy! Knowing me, I would have been one of those women dragging a heavy cart load of books out West with an irritated husband, rolling his eyes and encouraging me to dump them out. (What a cross to bear!)

Since the dawn of time, people have gone to great lengths to nurture their minds. Abraham Lincoln nearly went blind teaching himself the law. Michelangelo lost much of his vision painting the Sistine ceiling in Vatican City, Italy. A fictional woman, too-stupid-to-live, descending basement stairs would certainly not have done so without a candle or a lantern in order to maintain footing so that a squeaky stair could alert an intruder exactly where to find her. (All together now: she’s not only stupid but she’s got a light!) Without light, ship captains would not be able to safely steer ships from one distant shore to another. (Keep an eye on that lighthouse, Captain!)

What a loss it is then when light is taken for granted. Lighting can be laughter, love, hope and faith welling within a vacant heart. The sight of colorful fireworks brightening up a night sky provides ample satisfaction while taking time out of a busy schedule to view decorated homes brings joy to any heart. Everyone’s different. Some people are drawn to city lights. And yet, others are drawn to the light coming from the television or computer screen. For centuries mankind has looked to a night sky filled with bright stars forming constellations that point to a northern star that drew wise men to a tiny babe swaddled in a manger, two thousand years ago.

Hope is light’s incalculable gift. When Edison, Tesla and Johnson, championed light for all, they took society from winter’s bleakest dark and ferried hope across the divide into every soul.

Today, I’m thinking about light and how it affects each and every one of us. As Christmas morning dawns and our loved ones flush in awe of their gifts, remember there was, is and will be only one light of the world. He came to ordain us with the gift of love and in so doing; he brought us out of darkness and into an inextinguishable light, a light of hope.

As a writer, I look to 2011 with the hope that my book will find the right home. What are you hoping for next year?

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Thank You Mr. Johnson

I have been down at the beach this weekend, fixing up a few things at the condo. Since it’s Christmas and I am a sucker for flashing multi-colored lights, I couldn’t just sit there the week before Christmas without a brightly lit Christmas tree. To remedy the problem of leaving my ten-foot tree at home, I went to a local store and bought a cheap two-foot tree and two fifty-bulb strands of light. No ornaments, no tinsel, no garland – just lights. Sitting by the window, the surf pounding and my lights merrily blinking, I felt more in tune with the Holiday Season. I also began to wonder who got the idea for lighting a Christmas tree with electric lights instead of candles. Who was responsible for one of my favorite things about Christmas?

Well, my research pointed me to the Edison Light Company. It seems that Edward Johnson, a vice-president of the company and a friend of Thomas Edison, told the light bulb department to make him a connected strand of light bulbs for Christmas. On Christmas Eve 1882, Mr. Johnson flipped the switch and forever changed the way we decorate our trees. His tree was lit with eighty small bulbs and the entire city of New York was aghast. It was simply a modern marvel! Only the poor populace of New York was not to have those electric lights for their trees until 1890 when Edison finally began to mass-produce them. At that time, a single sixteen-bulb strand of lights cost about $12.00 (equivalent to $300.00 today). Mighty expensive. So the business of renting Christmas lights began. The price eventually dropped and soon everyone was using the new-fangled electric lights instead of burning down their houses with candles on Christmas Eve. The rest is history.

I really would like to thank Mr. Johnson for his American ingenuity in coming up with Christmas lights. My fondest memory as a child was being loaded up in the car on Christmas Eve while wearing my pajamas, wrapped in a blanket and then taken on a tour of Montgomery to view the Christmas lights. The memory of sitting snugly in the back seat, singing Christmas carols with the family and exclaiming over the beauty of people’s displays always fills me with nostalgia. And, my sister and I usually kept a close eye on the night sky in case we might catch a glimpse of St. Nick. It just made the trip more delicious. When we finally came home, my mother would make hot chocolate and then send us to bed, warning that if we didn’t go to sleep Santa wouldn’t stop at our house.

I continued the tradition with my son, enjoying the displays that people put so much labor in to provide for my entertainment. I loved the lights and inventiveness that some people came up with. He still wants to go look at the lights on Christmas Eve but instead of cocoa we now share a bottle of wine, sitting around the Christmas tree mesmerized by the blinkies. To me, Christmas without my lights would be dull and boring.

Right now, staring at my little tree and doing the math, my one hundred bulbs in Edison’s time would have cost me about $3,600.00 (in today’s money that would be equivalent to about $30,000.00). Geez! My admiration for the pitiful little tree just grew.

Did you ever go wandering in the car, looking at the Christmas lights? Was your family one of the people who decorated their yards? Do you go to the professional displays like the Huntsville Botanical Gardens or Arab’s City Park?

Monday, December 20, 2010


Do you notice how, when talking about the holidays, people toss around the words vintage and retro like they're things to be revered? While I know those German blown glass birds, circa 1910, may be fine things, they just don't have that much company.

Does anybody remember those Christmas corsages that women used to wear pinned to their coat lapels? I don't know when they died out but they were alive and well when I was a very young child in the early sixties. Understand these were not fresh flowers from the florist. Oh, no. They came from the dime store and were made up of beads, bells, ornaments, glitter, and little springs of fake greenery. Tacky though they sound, I know they could not have been considered so at the time because my grandmother, mother, and sister wore them and they didn't do tacky stuff.

In this golden age of glitter, we did not stop at decorating our persons with corsages. Oh, no. There was the glitter in the hair. Not that I personally had any, though I begged and begged. I'm not talking spray-in diamond dust. Hairdressers would spray lacquer onto freshly teased bouffant hairdos, sprinkle on honest to god glitter, and lacquer the whole thing again. One has to wonder why the hair didn't break like shattered glass. Maybe it did but, if so, it looked mighty festive as it met its end.

Maybe back then people felt compelled to decorate their persons because they didn't have so many house decorations. When I was a child, our inside decorations consisted of a tree, a centerpiece on the dining room table, and Christmas cards taped around the door. Outside, the front door had a cover that looked like a wrapped present and big colored lights around the windows. The lights had to be perfectly straight and they could not blink. (My mother said she would not have her house looking like honky-tonk.)

And that was all the decorating we did. It was all anybody did. Ours fit in two cardboard boxes that lived on the shelf of the living room closet.

In the early days, our tree was spruce pine, purchased at Namie's Market and put up one week before Christmas. Then came the dark, dark day when my mother decided she wanted an aluminum tree with a revolving color wheel, which she decorated exclusively with perfectly matched red glass balls. How I hated that thing. We didn't use it many years. I think I finally wore them down with my whining.

It's a wonder I survived childhood Christmases unscathed, what with being denied glitter in my hair and having to look at an aluminum tree. Of course, there was the corsage for consolation.

Do you have any holiday memories that make you cringe--even if you are smiling a little too?

Friday, December 17, 2010


Jean is still reading The Golden Season by Connie Brockway but expects to finish today and start Blue Christmas by Mary Kay Andrews.

Stephanie is reading Dark Gold by Christine Feehan.

Kathy is busy reading the backs of her eyeballs!

Cheryl is reading No Mercy by Sherilyn Kenyon, a Dark Hunter novel.

What are you reading?

Thursday, December 16, 2010

All I Want for Christmas

We are all familiar with the "All I Want for Christmas is my Two Front Teeth" song. Every day,I have the opportunity to work with some students who don't have the many advantages that others do. Many of my students don't have computers, shoes that fit, warm coats, or even running water; yet, not a day goes by that I don't see one of my students share with another student. At lunch, nothing goes in the trash because someone always wants what others don't. I have even seen students pack up food in zip top bags to take home to little brothers and sisters who didn't get lunch.
It makes me thankful for what I have and that I have the chance to see the good in kids who often have a bad reputation because of their zip code. When I asked my students for suggestions of what they wanted for Christmas from me, you would think that I would have had crazy wish lists from the class. I asked them for some ideas about games for our classroom and then what each of them wanted. Without a doubt the most requested games were another Battleship and a new Life game. Our Life game has lost all of its "people" and it has Monopoly money from a game gone missing.
The personal gifts they asked for were watches with gum in them and marbles. Yes, I had five or six students ask for marbles. First, I ask them if they were going to put them up their noses. They said, "No." Then I asked if they were going to put them up someone else's nose. There was a longer pause this time but then they again said, "No." So kids whose dads are in prison, who live with their grannies, who didn't have snacks last week only want marbles and a new game of Life for Christmas. What great kids I work with.
How blessed am I that I get to know these students and have them in my life!

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Calendar of Dreams

2011 is nearly upon us! As I prepare my household for Christmas and New Year’s Eve, I’m already thinking about next year. What will I achieve? Will I find successes like the ones I’ve enjoyed this year, will I fail to achieve the goals of my dreams, or will 2011 hold more fabulous surprises that will knock my shoes off! (I’m hoping for the latter. ;)

Yesterday, as I browsed through an office store, I meandered over to the calendar section. I love a good calendar! At year’s end, every year, I flock to the calendar counter and peruse the various kinds available. Some are all business. Some are thick with pages of nonsense I don’t need. Others are too small or too big, or to busy and distracting. But there is always THE ONE that stands out. This year is no different.

Have you ever heard of the Action Day Calendar?

Well, then. Let me introduce you. This calendar is designed for ACTION. It's a results planner with a Diary Section, Tasks to Execute, Goals and Projects and Projects Delegated pages, to include 35 pages for notes. It contains a weekly calendar, allowing the owner to plot the coming week’s events, deadlines, results for goals, and next action steps. There are 14 pages at the beginning of the calendar devoted to Power of Attitude, Goals & Actions, with introspective on Attitude, The Three Attitude Circles (Me, Work & Communications), The Attitude I Choose to Live By, See Yourself As The Person You Want To Be!, Goals, My Yearly Goals, Weekly Goals, Actions, Action Day, and Action Day’s Discipline of Rituals.

Check out these interesting and thought provoking quotes:

Most of us go to our graves with our music still inside us, unplayed. — Oliver Wendell Holmes

Your attitude about who you are and what you have is a very little thing that makes a very big difference. — Theodore Roosevelt

Nothing can stop the man with the right mental attitude from achieving his goal; nothing on earth can help the man with wrong mental attitude. — Thomas Jefferson

It is never too late to be what you might have been. — George Elliot

You must have long-range goals to keep you from being frustrated by short range failures. — Charles C. Noble

Man is a goal-seeking animal. His life only has meaning if he is reaching out and striving for his goals. — Aristotle

Talk does not cook rice. — Chinese Proverb

We are what we repeatedly do. — Aristotle

Now doesn't this make you want to win the Noble Peace Prize? With this kind of encouragement we'll all have a Golden Heart, a book contract, or a Rita in our hands before long. ;)

Within the pages, you'll find a two page spread with a column on the left-hand side devoted to Tasks to Execute. You'll find the weekly calendar sprawled across both pages. A Project column at the bottom of the page is joined by a Delegated To and Deadline column. On the right page, there are columns devoted to Goals, Results and Next Action Steps beneath the calendar week.

I purchased this calendar to help jump start my writing for the year. By keeping tabs on my time and my goals in weekly form, I’m hoping that the weekly goals I’ve set for myself will hold me more accountable IF I have this calendar to refer and report to, and if I bother to use it. (The deadliest culprit of all, laziness.)

And so, like Julie Andrews singing my list of favorite things this brings me back to...
the dilemma facing many people this time of year. Are you tired of wondering where the year has gone? Why you couldn’t fit more hours into your day? Why some people are more productive than you are? Why you find yourself more apt to write or do whatever your passion is during certain hours of the day? I humbly suggest you check this calendar out. It comes in small 6 x 8 padfolio size and large 8 x 10 padfolio size. You can find more about this calendar by visiting here: http://www.actionday.com/

Come aboard ye scallywags!

Man the braces! Now is not the time to wallow in the hold, sick as dogs, afraid to show our faces to the world. We are cut from finer cloth. Put the fair wind at yer backs. Mayhap, just mayhap it'll carry us all toward deepening our pockets and charting that adventurous path that'll see us to that coveted horizon, a successful 2011.

What method works for you, a calendar, a journal, a bulletin board, a sword at your back, a plank, or the honor system? Share with us how you manage your time and finish the year feeling as though you’ve accomplished your goals. Believe me, I need all the help I can get!

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Christmas Traditions and Symbols

I receive a million catalogues at this time of the year and most of the time I ignore them. One, however, the Bronner’s catalogue, always delights me. It is a business that sells Christmas ornaments – unusual ones you can’t find just anywhere. I have ordered from them and have been very pleased by what I received. Flipping through the catalogue, the thing that caught my attention was the discussions of the different Christmas traditions and symbols. I love minutiae and this intrigued me. So, giving full credit to Bronner’s, I wanted to relate some of them to you.

The Christmas Tree – The tree itself, being an evergreen, represents eternal life offered by faith in Christ. The star on top signifies the star that guided the Wise Men. Lights on the tree represent Christ, “the Light of the World.” The gifts beneath the tree represent God’s gift of His only begotten Son.

How the Robin Got Its Red Breast – A humble brown bird shared the stable with the Holy Family at the birth of Christ. Joseph had built a fire to warm the family but in the middle of the night the fire died down. The little brown bird flew down and fanned the embers with its wings. Being so close to the fire, the bird’s breast turned red from the heat. The breast of the Robin has been red ever since to remind us of its love and compassion for the baby Jesus.

The Christmas Spider – European legend tells of a woman who was too poor to decorate her tree. A spider that lived in her house came down on Christmas Eve and began spinning beautiful webs on the tree. The next morning when the sun’s light hit the tree, the webs turned to silver. The woman awoke to find great wealth and beauty on her tree. The spider had brought her good luck. (As an aside, I think this might be one reason we use tinsel.)

The Rooster – Legend says that the only time the rooster crowed at midnight was when Jesus was born. In Spain and Latin America “Misa del Gallo,” the Mass of the Rooster, is celebrated on Christmas Eve.

The Donkey - The donkey that carried Jesus into Jerusalem on Palm Sunday followed Him to Calvary. Unable to watch Christ crucified, the donkey turned away. The shadow of the Cross fell upon the shoulders and back of the donkey. Many donkeys today carry the Cross on their backs. (I have one of these and it is precious! The donkey does have the Cross on its shoulders and back).

The Poinsettia - This is a Mexican legend. A boy with no gift to bring to the church to lay at the Nativity met an angel. The angel told him to pick some dried weeds and take them to the church. As he put the weeds by the manager they turned into beautiful flowers – the Poinsettia. As an aside, the flower got its name from Dr. Joel Poinsett, the first U.S. ambassador to Mexico. He brought the flower to the United States.

The Candy Cane – The white of the candy symbolizes the purity of Christmas. The red stripes are the blood of Christ. The candy is formed in a “J” for Jesus. The hardness of the candy represents the Solid Rock – the foundation of the Church.

The Pig – In Germany, eating roasted pig on Christmas Eve will prevent evil and promote prosperity. Pigs are considered symbols of good fortune. (I have seen a lot of pig ornaments and have always wondered why you would put a pig on your Christmas Tree. Guess now I know.)

The Pickle – This is also a German tradition. The pickle brings good luck and is the last ornament placed on the tree. On Christmas morning the child who finds the pickle ornament gets an extra gift from St. Nicholas. This tradition was to encourage the children to appreciate the other ornaments before hurrying to see what St. Nicholas had left them.

At our house, we have one special ornament, from our first Christmas, that we put on the tree together. Kind of cements our love for each other and makes the promise of continuing with our love in the next year.

Does your family have a special tradition for Christmas? Do you know of any Christmas Legends or traditions that I haven’t listed?

Monday, December 13, 2010

Get It Done Fast Without BeingTalked About Recipes

I've blogged the last two weeks about Christmas. If you remember—and even if you don't—two weeks ago, I was a bit overwhelmed and last week I was still overwhelmed but had decided I was going to settle down and do what was important. I am happy to report that is going well. My house is decorated and clean but I have not forsaken the important things to do it.

Since we last talked here, I've had lunch with friends twice, spent a lovely afternoon with Kathy, been to book club, been to the Heart of Dixie Christmas party, had coffee with Stephanie, Kathy, and Cheryl, had two of my favorite people spend the weekend at my house, and went on the neighborhood Christmas Tour of Homes. It sounds exhausting but it wasn't. I refused to participate in stress. Somewhere along the way I also decided I didn't have to take a gourmet dish to every holiday gathering.

I can cook. I can't sing, dance, or draw but I can cook. People praise me for it. I like to be praised so I tend to want to show off when I have to take food somewhere. I have always leaned toward making things like flour less chocolate cake, homemade cheese straws, brie wrapped in puff pastry, fresh apple cake with that kind of caramel frosting where you have to burn the sugar, and chicken salad made from marinated charcoal grilled chicken breasts.

I have shut that down. I took cornbread dressing to the Heart of Dixie party and three people asked me how I made it. (Since I already had home cornbread and turkey stock in my freezer it took no time.) I made mushroom dip for book club that took four ingredients and ten minutes of my life. It's the way to go. So I am going to share with you a few recipes from my arsenal of GET IT DONE FAST WITHOUT BEING TALKED ABOUT food.

This tastes better than it sounds.

Hot Mushroom Dip

  • 1 pound fresh mushrooms, chopped fine (I use baby bellas)
  • 2 Tablespoons butter
  • 1 cup mayonnaise
  • 1 cup grated Parmesan cheese

Sauté mushrooms in butter until tender and the liquid evaporates. Add cheese and mayonnaise. Bake at 325 degrees for 30 minutes.

If you mix it up ahead and bake right from the refrigerator, it will take 5-10 longer.

I've been known to add a little sherry.


This takes no more than five minutes and it tastes like pizza

Sun-Dried Tomato Pate

  • 1/2 cup oil-packed sun-dried tomatoes
  • 8 ounces cream cheese, softened
  • ¼ cup butter, softened
  • ½ cup grated Parmesan cheese
  • 1 clove garlic
  • ¼ t. dried oregano
  • ¼ t. dried basil
  • ½ t. dried thyme
  • ½ t. salt

Put everything in the food processor and process until smooth and blended. Chill for at least 4 hours to allow flavors to blend. Let soften before serving with crackers.

Note: If you buy sun-dried tomatoes with herbs, omit the oregano, basil, and thyme. After blending, taste and correct the seasonings. You may need to add none or all of the herbs called for, depending on the brand.


Not as quick or easy as the other two but as cakes go, it's a cinch. No mixer involved and it travels well since it stays in the pan.

Coca-Cola Cake

  • 2 cups sugar
  • 2 cups flour
  • 3 tablespoons cocoa
  • 1 cup butter
  • 1 cup Coca-Cola
  • 1 teaspoon espresso powder or instant coffee
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 cup buttermilk
  • 2 eggs, beaten
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 1/2 cups miniature marshmallows (optional)

  • Frosting:
  • 1/2 cup butter
  • 3 tablespoon cocoa
  • 1 teaspoon espresso powder or instant coffee
  • 6 tablespoons Coca-Cola
  • 1 box confectioner's sugar, (1pound)
  • I cup broken pecans. (I toast them at 350 degrees for about 8 minutes.)

Preheat oven to 350.Grease and flour a 9 x 13-inch pan and set aside.

In a large bowl whisk flour and sugar together. In a saucepan, combine the cocoa, Coca-Cola, espresso powder, and butter; bring to a boil. Combine the boiled mixture with the flour and sugar mixture. Dissolve soda in buttermilk. Combine with above ingredients. Add eggs, vanilla, and marshmallows. Pour into pan and bake 45 minutes, until cake tests done.

Frosting: In a saucepan, bring butter, cocoa, espresso powder, and Coca-Cola to a boil. Stir in the sugar and mix well. Add pecans. Pour over the cake while both cake and frosting are still warm.
Serves about 16.

Note: The espresso powder is my own addition. You don't have to use it. The marshmallows are optional but I've never omitted them.

Do you have a recipe or shortcut to help you through the season? Share. We all need all the help we can get!

Friday, December 10, 2010


It's Friday!

In honor of 'What Are You Reading' Fridays, I'd like to ask what draws you to a book. Is it the cover or the blurb? Is it the author?

What do you like to read? Contemporaries, Historicals, Paranormals, Mysteries or Suspense?

Are you drawn to books with a happily ever after or do you like the endings you'll find in a Nicholas Sparks book?


Jean forgot to ask Stephanie, Cheryl, and Kathy what they were reading, so chime in!

Jean is reading The Golden Season by Connie Brockway

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Collections, Collections, Collections

Have you ever made the comment that you really liked something and the people in your life heard it as, "Hey, I think I want to collect-fill in the blank."

I like dressed eggs and deviled eggs. I like to eat them. I like to make them. I like to take them to food sharing occasions because others, especially men, like them too. What you may be asking yourself is the difference in a dressed egg and a deviled egg? Well, if you make them really spicy and sprinkle the top with cayenne pepper you have deviled eggs but if you make the filling more mild and sprinkle paprika on the top of them you have dressed eggs. A boy child once asked me how you got naked eggs, I guess that would be if you didn't sprinkle anything on top of the filling.

Once upon a time, long, long ago in another lifetime, I saw an egg plate in an antique mall that was a beautiful green color. I said how pretty it was and my wonderful friend went back and got it for me for Christmas. Here is a picture of the egg plate. I use it all the time but especially during the holidays because it is so goreous and I always, always, always think of her.

So that is how it began...Others heard me talking about how much I loved the egg plate and how great it was to get it as a gift so they thought that I would love it if they got me an egg plate. And they are correct! I love each and every one. Apparently I am not the only one who loves an egg plate. There are entire webpages dedicated to them. Eggplates "dot" com has some beautiful egg plates as well as the history of egg plates. It was very interesting to read and to see that I am not alone in my love of the egg plate.
Within the last few years, I have gotten several other egg plates. The same wonderful friend got me a beautiful one that I could find a picture of. It is a fantastic green tree shaped plate with snow , cardinals, and ribbon. It is by Susan Winget and called Winter Wonderland. Apparently, it is so special there aren't any for sale on the internet. Who would have thought it was possible for something to exsist and not be for sale on the internet.
Here are some pictures of some of my favorites...

Aren't they beautiful!
Don't they make you smile
and remember Sunday dinner
at Grandmother's house?

I think that is why I love egg plates and am so charmed by them. They make me think of social times and simpler times when life was slower and more relaxed.
Do you have any collections? Did you start collecting on purpose or was it an accident like mine?

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Lighting Is Everything

Per Jean’s blog post about Holiday Rules, I've been thinking a lot about lighting. Sitting on my couch, staring up at my banister railing on the balcony above, I’ve been eyeing my lighted garland (yes, the one I had to restring— the lazy way). Now that my lights work again, they sparkle like stars in a night sky. Oh! How I love to turn off all the lights in the house and watch them twinkle like winking friends.

Lighting, you see, is everything.

Lighting sets the mood. It softens the hardest edges or crispens the dullest sheen. Without the proper lighting, an actor/actress would not get the perfect silhouette when performing. Movies would not have ambiance, especially during romantic scenes. Music would not have that ethereal spark that summons the spirit and moves the heart. Composers would not be motivated to write masterpieces and artists would not be inspired to stroke canvas.

Lighting, my friends, is everything.

Without the proper lighting, one cannot read a book. A writer cannot put words to the page. Craftsmen of all kinds would be forced to work only during the day, under the hot sun. Wise Men wouldn’t have been able to find their way across distant lands without a star to guide them to a manger.

Lighting is everything.

This is the season to celebrate light as daylight fades into winter with the rotation of the earth and life is cast into darkness. Humanity would plunge into the abyss, succumbing to the severest cold, if fire had never been invented. Thank goodness for lighting or else those who live in Alaska would go insane! This is why Nordic people paint all their furniture white or a very pale blue. Light has a life-giving force. There must always be light. Without it, the human eye takes on a deathly glow (cue movie: pan to race forced to live underground after the apocalypse). The human mind would fall into depression without light to provide Vitamin D.

Lighting is everything.

Light gives life. Plants need light to thrive and survive. We here at Okay, Listen Here wouldn’t have Tulip trees to provide southern charm or shelter our skin from damaging effects of the sun. (A southern woman always takes pride in having supple, youthful skin. Sho ‘nuff.)

Lighting, my friends, is everything.

So as we go through this holiday season, remember to let the light of compassion guide your path. Be a friend to someone who needs one. Shine for your family. Guide your loved ones with grace. Lighting is everything and if we take light within ourselves, syphoning the power of the stars, we’ll make a brighter tomorrow.

What is your favorite light source? And, if you could influence someone in history, who would that be?

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

I Hate Lipstick!!

I am not a girly-girl. When all the little girls were playing dress-up and fiddling with their mothers’ make-up, I was outside throwing dirt clods and playing Army. I paid no attention to how my mother put on her make-up or how she wiggled into that girdle. I wasn’t interested. Until…I noticed the boys. Then I did a quick lesson in dressing and making up my face. Except for that darn lipstick. I never could get the hang of it and I didn’t like the cloying way it felt. Besides, boys that wanted to kiss me didn’t like having it smeared all over their lips. Why bother?

I have always watched and admired those women who could whip out a tube of lipstick, dash it across their lips and look marvelous. I, on the other hand, have always laboriously applied it to my lips while firmly planted in front of a mirror in the bathroom. Until the other day…

Lipstick is different these days. I decided to try that new lip stain that every cosmetic company is touting. I thought the stuff would suit me. It promised to give me some color that would last all day. Great! I wouldn’t have to bother with finding a mirror and smearing on some color every few minutes!

Well…it never occurred to me that if it stains your lips, the skin around your mouth is also going to be susceptible. I plopped the unused tube into my purse and climbed into the car. We were meeting some people for dinner and my husband was driving. As usual, I was late getting dressed so I figured I put the lip stain on while in the car, just like I normally did with REGULAR lipstick. Close to our destination I fumbled with the plastic safety covering on the tube. It had those little perforations which were supposed to make it easy to open. Yeah, right. I had to practically chew the covering off. Spitting out tiny fragments of plastic, I flipped down the visor mirror, tube of lip stain in hand. Now, travelling at seventy miles an hour, I should have considered the inherent problems of using a long wand of pink stuff that was permanent. Taking aim at my bottom lip, I applied it with ease. Done. Now for the upper lip…Ooops! Hit a pothole! The wand slipped and now I had a smear of luscious pink across the skin above my lip. I grabbed a tissue and rubbed furiously. Still there. I kept rubbing but the stuff wasn’t coming off. I looked like the Joker on Batman. I couldn’t get it off with a moist towelette. Nothing could get it off!!! Our destination was getting closer and I would not be able to face people looking like a clown!

My husband, trying not to laugh, offered his glasses lens cleaner which contained alcohol. Desperate, I tried it. The color faded a bit but I could still see it. Maybe no one would notice. Right. All evening I saw people staring intently at my upper lip. Guess they wondered why I looked like I had been outside all day in the wind, chapping my skin. No one said anything and I was grateful to slink out. At home, acetone was the only thing that got rid of it completely. Now the skin above my lip just looked like it had been rubbed raw instead of luscious pink.

The lip stain is some dangerous stuff. Like a loaded gun, you have to be aware of its inherent danger – It remains where you put it. I now have a healthy respect for lip stain. It’s good and it works if you apply it correctly and not while travelling at seventy miles an hour.

Have you ever had an experience like this? Say, walking around with a piece of toilet paper stuck to your shoe? Or a black smudge of mascara across your eyelid when you thought you really looked good? Let me in on those embarrassing moments.

Monday, December 6, 2010


Christmas makes me crazy. I have seventeen Rubbermaid totes full of stuff that's supposed to make the season jolly. That's not even counting the dishes, candlesticks, and various other paraphernalia stored in cabinets. I do not know how many ornaments I own. If I did, I would be ashamed to tell it.

A couple of days ago I made some spur of the minute plans for The Guy and me to meet two other couples for dinner. I was looking forward to it. That afternoon, I commenced with putting up garland around the double windows in my upstairs sitting room. This entails climbing, stringing lights, and wiring in ornaments. The finished product is beautiful but it is almost as much trouble as putting up a ten foot Christmas tree. This is something I do by myself because I want it like I want it. Though a lot of trouble, it's usually not hard—i.e. the garland usually doesn’t fall three times nor do the anchoring nails fall out. I climbed, I nailed, I cussed. Finally it was almost time for The Guy to come home and I thought, "I cannot go to dinner. I will have to cancel because I HAVE TO GET THIS DONE."

But something stopped me. I throttled back and asked myself what the heck I was doing. I answered myself: I was about to give up something important—time with friends—for something that wasn't—perfectly decorated garland. I realized that I work myself into a frenzy all season long, all the while thinking, "If I can just get it right, I can relax and enjoy everything." But that part never comes. There's always another gift to wrap, another cookie to bake, and—God help—another ornament to hang.

We went to dinner. When we came home, we put A Christmas Story on, and The Guy and I finished the job. I am here to tell you, The Guy is not nearly as interested in symmetry and color balance as I am. Hence, the garland doesn't look exactly like it would have if I had done it alone, but, honestly, it looks just as good. And we had a lovely evening.

This caused me make some rules for myself. I call them the Yule Rules. Right now, I only have a few but I expect to add to them as time goes on.


1. If a string of lights even acts one bit cantankerous, throw it away. Do not fiddle with it for an hour hoping to make it work right. It never will.

2. If an ornament is ugly, throw it out regardless of from whence it came. (Note: ornaments made by precious preschool hands are never ugly and are worth a million times the price of the entire lot of the retired Waterford Songs of Christmas series.)

3. Stay out of the mall and Wal-Mart. If Ace Hardware or a store downtown doesn't have it, I don't need it.

4. Do not search for the perfect ribbon. It doesn't exist and nobody cares.

5. Do not pass on the opportunity to visit with loved ones in order to tape, bake, hang, or hot glue anything. It's not worth it.

6. Order pizza.

Do you have any Yule Rules?

Friday, December 3, 2010


What are you reading? Other than the directions for how to make Christmas happen, that is.

Stephanie is reading: An-Old-Fashioned Southern Christmas, an anthology by Lee Greenwood, Connie Mason, Susan Tanner and Nell McFather.

Kathy is reading: Countess by Christmas by Annie Burrows.

Jean is reading: First Love Cookie Club by Lori Wilde.

Cheryl is between books.

What's your favorite Christmas book. Come on, tell me. I need something new.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

I See the Light

I see the light at the end of the tunnel...I just hope it isn't a train.

I am so excited to be coming to the end of my graduate school term next week. I am especially excited because it is the LAST semester before I graduate. I am working pretty fanatically to finish up the last of my papers and projects. I think they are trying to weed out the weak by making this last semester really, really, really tough. It has taken a lot more of my time than some other semesters have but it is finally drawing to an end.

I get really excited to think about how this change will affect my life. I will definitely have more time to spend visiting with friends, reading blogs, having a dates. I will have more time to work on finding an agent and working on the WIP and revisions with Jean. I will definitely have a LOT less stress because I won't have assignments due every week or papers to write or exams to study for. YEAH!!! Eventually I will even have a bit more money when the state gets around to sending my new certificate to my central office.

I know that some people love going to school and many are sort of sad when they graduate. That's not me. I am always so excited to be moving on to the next new exciting chapter of my life. This upcoming graduation has made me think about the other times I have graduated. Each and every time I have surged forward in a new adventure. I am looking forward to seeing what this newest chapter of my life brings.

How do you feel when life opens a new chapter up for you?

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

How Do I Follow That?

Another Wednesday has arrived, which means another blog to write. As I sit tapping my fingers together, I wonder what I could possibly say that would shed any ounce of credit to my race. Jean and Cheryl have provided witty blogs this week. How do I to follow? I’m actually at an impasse. ~sigh~

Mulling… Mulling… Ah yes! Thanksgiving is over and the holiday tide has turned an expectant eye toward Christmas, giving me a daily glimpse into what makes people tick as the clock tocks down the days and hours until Christmas Eve. This week, Jean has discussed holiday prep and Cheryl shared her experiences as how NOT to be forced to celebrate in jail. (Pirate!)

Sadly, I cannot boast anything so daring. I'm always in a state of flux. I've got my mother's boxes to go through. I’m behind getting my decorations pulled out of the closet and displayed. Two neighbors across the street have already transformed their humble abodes into Griswald palaces making me feel like a chump. The incandescent glare is hard to ignore. Christmas ambiance! Bright. Flamboyant. Joyous to behold! Yet another reason for me to feel trumped. I have this nagging fear that I won’t be able to drag my derriere fast enough to keep up with the Joneses. I am, however, ahead of the game in other areas. I’ve made most of my purchases and those gifts need only to be wrapped. So why so glum, why pressure myself? Well, the answer is simple. I’ve been sick for a week and I'm behind on just about everything. I’m fighting off what started out as an allergy thing but even so, it’s been hard to get energized about anything this past week, to include thinking, let alone decorating.

So do you think this is the wrong time to start a new book? Well I did, thanks to some really fantastic brainstorming from Jean to get the old noggin’s juices flowing. And I do believe, if I say so myself, that I’m onto something great! (Thanks for steering me in the right direction, Poppet!)

Anyone who knows me knows I must have pictures of my hero/heroine. In the past, I’ve storyboarded to exhibit the characters and get a feel for story flow. As a visual writer, I need that boost. It gives me peace of mind. This past week, I wavered back and forth as to whom to model my hero after. First thoughts lead me to Carl Urban. He’s ruggedly good-looking, tall, and capable of embodying my hero's quiet charm. But Ian Somerhalder from the Vampire Diaries begs to be noticed. His electric blue eyes scream hero material, wounded pride, and dutiful adoration. Then there is Nathan Fillion. Oh, the choices! The world is wildly populated by dashing, tall, dark, and handsomes. But none have quite enamored me as much as the one I found today. Countless historical authors have long discussed this actor’s merits and now I fully understand why. Today, while hunkering down in my chair with a cup of hot tea and a fuzzy blanket when I should’ve been writing, I watched North & South, a BBC production with the one… the only Richard Armitage!
This mini-series has been on my required watching list for years. Well, I finally got a copy and spent the afternoon watching all four episodes. Before I could say “Tea and Crumpets,” I had fallen in love with Richard’s character John Thornton, a stern, wounded soul who owns and operates a cotton mill amid the turmoil of rising industry in the Victorian age.

Oh, to be able to write something as poignant and lasting as what Elizabeth Gaskell created. Every word of dialogue, every scene segue led to another pivotal scene or revelation. Aha! Yes! This is what every writer lives for, what I strive for. To touch a reader in such a way as to have that reader truly believe the characters’ motives and desires, and to feel such an attachment to them that one finds herself saying, “I have found my stiff-backed, prideful, devoted Duke!” Long may his character wave!

So I'm back to twiddling my fingers. Tap. Tap. Tap. It's Wednesday, My sinuses are still a wreck, my brain is muddled, holiday duties await, and all I want to do is watch North & South again.

Where did you find your tall, dark, and handsome? And if you could pick your tall, dark, and handsome out of a book or movie, which one would you choose?